Today a woman asked me how many years I’ve lived in Taiwan, a question I get often but was afraid to answer because I’ve had a stressful week and didn’t really want to hear yet another lecture from a stranger about how my Mandarin is “really bad” for someone who has been here “so long.” But instead, she said “No wonder you don’t seem like an ABC! You aren’t like a foreigner at all.” I pointed out my accent to her and she said that it wasn’t very obvious. I was very intrigued by this conversation. On the one hand, it’s good to know that after five years in this country, I am able to go into almost all situations with a sense of confidence about my ability to communicate. This is especially precious to me because I always remember how awkward and out of place I felt when I first arrived in 2007. But that tension has been an important and constant part of my identity. I’m Taiwanese-American and the challenge of balancing two cultures has made me who I am, for better or worse. It’s something I will think about for the rest of my life, and, right now, I’m OK with that.
Speaking of two cultures… let’s look at my scrapbook layout! It has die cuts, a paperclip shaped like Taiwan and fancy brads!
At first I wasn’t happy with this layout because my journaling is slanted, but then I figured that there’s no point in pretending my handwriting is neater than it really is! The featured photo was taken during our 1988 family trip to see my grandparents in Taipei. We’re standing in front of the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial, but the most striking thing about this photo is that our outfits match (my Dad’s tie had thin red stripes). It’s almost as if we dressed to match the US flag or the ROC flag. But I like to think it’s the US flag, because we look like the quintessential 1980s American family, right down to my Mom’s jaunty red swing coat with its shoulder pads, my jeans and my father’s tweedy blazer.
We only went to Taiwan a few times before my grandparents moved out of the country around 1992, and then afterward I didn’t make another trip back until I came to visit Ron in 2006. Despite the 14 year gap, those vacations were extremely important to me when I moved here, because at least I felt a connection to Taiwan, no matter how small and fragile it was. I didn’t take for granted—and I still don’t—how shadowy memories, brief seconds of deja vu and the recollection of loving visits with relatives I rarely saw helped ease my way into building a life here.